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Broad City’s meticulously chaotic world, explained in one scene

Broad City returned for its third season on Wednesday, February 17, throwing us back into the messy world of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer's stoned heroines and allowing us to bear witness as they continued to flail about New York City. But even though the show centers on a pair of comfortable slackers, it proved within the first two minutes of its season three premiere ("Two Chainz") that the team behind it is anything but complacent.

Since its Comedy Central debut in 2014, Broad City has steadily showcased a careful eye for detail. (The show began as a web series on YouTube, before Jacobson and Glazer enlisted Amy Poehler as an executive producer and brought it to television networks.) In fact, when I reviewed Broad City's first two seasons at the A.V. Club, I had to stop myself from overusing the words "chaotic" and "meticulous" — two descriptors that are usually at odds but go hand in hand on Broad City.

If you examine the show's layered writing and purposeful production design, you'll find extra jokes, callbacks, and hidden winks within just about every one of Abbi and Ilana's adventures. And there's no easier — or better — way to illustrate just how much care and thought Broad City puts into every scene than the season three premiere's astonishingly good cold open, which packs a whole year of Abbi and Ilana's lives into one tightly edited montage.

It all takes place in their respective bathrooms, set side by side.

Abbi and Ilana, right where we left them.
Comedy Central

Not coincidentally, "Two Chainz" boasts frequent Broad City writer and director Lucia Aniello behind the camera. She wrote this episode with Paul Downs; the two also collaborated on season one's "Working Girls," which opened with a similar split-screen sequence that chronicled a single day in Abbi and Ilana's lives.

And so the "Two Chainz" sequence — set to Lizzo and Caroline Smith's impossibly catchy "Let 'Em Say" and shot entirely in just one day — kicks off with Abbi and Ilana sitting on their toilets. Right away, there's a callback to the season two finale, "St. Marks," which saw them buying the joke shirts they're wearing to replace the ones they ruined with red wine:

broad city st marks

Another memorable night for Broad City (circa season two).

This montage marks the first time we see Abbi and Ilana celebrating major holidays

From there, viewers get a whirlwind look at Abbi and Ilana's year between "St. Marks" and the season three premiere. The series has always taken place in the summer, so this montage offers a glimpse at Abbi and Ilana's lives in the fall, winter, and spring.

There's a quick shot of them both wearing rainbow gear, probably after New York's LGBT Pride in July:

This one screengrab could be its own A+ episode.
Comedy Central

As Ilana makes out with someone, Abbi sadly flushes a goldfish down the toilet. (Keep your eyes peeled: Throughout this montage, we see her say goodbye to two more dearly departed fish.)

We then get to see the duo's Halloween costumes (they apparently both decided to channel '80s-era Madonna). Meanwhile, Abbi's roommate (whose face we've never seen) straddles Bevers, her intrusive boyfriend who makes Abbi's life hell.

Get into the groove, boy.
Comedy Central

Next follows a brief cut to Abbi and Ilana celebrating New Year's:

new years broad city

And then it's Valentine's Day, with Abbi and Ilana splitting a heart-shaped box full of chocolate. They are, after all, the great loves of each other's lives.

broad city valentine

A more subtle signifier of time is a cheeky shot of both women rocking "The Dress," the Tumblr picture turned internet-wide debate that spawned surprisingly intense arguments over whether the dress was black and blue or white and gold:

dress broad city

(Abbi is correct.)

Clearly, Abbi and Ilana picked their sides in this unholy battle of perception. Lucky for us, though, their friendship persevered.

As is Broad City's way, this cold open is also packed with inside jokes

In between all the holidays, the montage contains a ton of "everyday" moments that mostly serve to let the show have some fun.

For example, there's a shot of Abbi reading Hillary Clinton's memoir, while Ilana's friend with benefits, Lincoln, goes down on her:

Later, we see Ilana reading the same memoir (likely Abbi's copy) as Abbi flushes yet another ill-fated goldfish down the toilet:

We also see the pair gleefully dancing, the better to test the twirling capabilities of Abbi's new hair extensions. It's a good thing they're doing so at Ilana's, because about two seconds later Abbi's entire bathroom ceiling full-on collapses.

Not ideal!

But hey: At least her repairman was hot.

Sometime in the spring, there's a quick cut to the duo suffering from surprisingly serious injuries, with Ilana sobbing to someone on the phone. You might be understandably confused, but if you look a bit closer, you'll see that Abbi's newspaper reveals the answer to your questions:

And, no, your eyes aren't deceiving you; that really does say, "DEATH AND HOT DOGS! UPPER DECK COLLAPSES AT STADIUM."

One of my favorite "parallel lives" moments in this entire cold open comes courtesy of two pregnancy tests. Abbi and Ilana take them at different times in the montage, but we've placed their reactions side by side:

But this is still a show about lovable burnouts, so it's only fitting that the montage ends with Abbi and Ilana taking a series of bong rips. (Take note of the second shot, which includes Abbi's old hair extensions hanging on the wall of Ilana's bathroom.)

broad city bong

In the cold open's final moments, they each take a deep breath, exhale, and then exit their bathrooms and the split screen. As becomes clear when we next see them (in the same outfits), they were on their way to meet each other.

This hyper-detailed, no-holds-barred montage is Broad City in a nutshell

This montage is a concentrated example of Broad City's love of detail. There's hardly a shot that doesn't have an extra joke built in somewhere, so if you pause the action, your eye will almost always land on something different.

Abbi and Ilana's New York City is dense and grimy, with hyperbolic twists and turns bursting off the screen at every possible opportunity. It's this kind of attention to joke writing and detail that makes me fondly describe Broad City as "stoned 30 Rock," but also why the show has earned such loyal and obsessive fans.

Within two minutes, the "Two Chainz" cold open fires off a year's worth of callbacks, inside jokes, and sight gags. The montage highlights all of Broad City's best instincts: It's off-the-wall bonkers, joyfully filthy, and genuinely touching in its portrayal of Abbi and Ilana's fierce friendship.


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